UK Geographic Information community

When I look at a map of London, I not only see a monopoly board with places like Euston Station, Mayfair, Kings Cross, Marylebone etc; I also see my city, Melbourne in a parallel universe. Here are Camberwell, Kensington, Sydenham and Epping, suburbs of Melbourne. Obviously, there are many parallels in the UK and Australia, no less in the spatial industry.

I am attending the Association for Geographic Information (AGI) GeoCommunity '11 conference in Nottingham. That’s right, place of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood fame. AGI is the UK equivalent of the Survey & Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI), and the annual conference is the largest independent GI conference in the UK. GI refers to Geographic Information, however as one speaker pointed today, across the industry there are a range of terms used: Spatial Information, Geospatial, GIS pronounced various ways, and Location intelligence etc. And we wonder why people are confused about our industry...


There are 450 delegates at the conference which is being held on the park style campus of the University of Nottingham. The conference theme is Placing Ourselves in the New Economy.

In the UK austerity is the new black.  Everyone is talking about how they need to demonstrate cost effectiveness, in a meaningful way. We talk about it in Australia but don’t have to confront the reality faced by our colleagues here.

One of the immediate double takes here is talk about the PSMA, not the Public Sector Mapping Authority but the Public Sector Mapping Agreement. The PSMA is a new, centrally funded, 10 year agreement for the provision of our geographical data to all public sector agencies in England and Wales. The Scots already have their own agreement. The PSMA provides free access to core geographic datasets from Ordnance Survey to central and local government, emergency services, defence and schools. The central government is paying 55 million pounds per year to support the agreement on the basis that it will lead to improved policy analysis and service efficiency. That’s real money in a tight financial climate because it will deliver savings. That’s impressive.

The Brits are also very proud too of their new GeoPlace hub that has established an authoritative national spatial address and street information database. The GeoPlace database replaced a national location gazetteer and postal address database. GeoPlace is a partnership with local authorities that engages them in the update cycle. GeoPlace receives over 5,000 change updates from local authorities per month. Sound familiar? As one person said to me, he could have taken a paper on Australia’s GNAF and replaced it with GeoPlace and told a similar story (although having one central government is far more efficient than a federation of state governments).

One of the most pleasing things to report is that I didn’t hear any speaker say Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0. Although, there was a lot of references to government transparency. The Cameron Government is committed to being the most transparent government in the world. So, open and accountable government is the mantra and the rationale for making more government data and information available. Well at least that puts the horse in front of the cart, rather than talking about Gov 2.0 as a means to an end.

We tend to look to the US for trends in technology directions, however, we can learn more from UK about government policy directions and underlying business reform.

I’m now off to the conference dinner. In deference to Robin Hood, the theme is to carry a bow. I’m expecting lots of bow ties as well as bows and arrows. I’ve got a bo-omerang in my pocket.

For more information about the AGI community go to:

Graeme Martin

Graeme is passionate about devising solutions using geospatial information to assist people to make decisions. Graeme is Spatial Vision’s General Manager for Operations and still leads major consulting projects for customers.

For over 25 years Graeme has assisted a range of organisations with strategic advice, design of bespoke information systems, stakeholder engagement and skills transfer.

Graeme has worked across a range of sectors including international development assistance, emergency services, water utilities, natural resource management, commercial services and local government.

For any enquiries please contact us on 1300 36 67 96 or contact Graeme directly via email

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